How to do Headlight Restoration on Plastic Lenses

by braniac

Headlight restoration can make plastic lenses look as good as new, making driving easier and safer. Plastic headlight lenses can yellow and haze from UV rays and weather; this occurs gradually and may not be noticed right away. Normal cleaning will not remove this cloudiness.

Headlight restorer kits are widely available to fix this problem. The one shown here is typical, and allows you to sand and polish the plastic lens to a clear finish. The restoration system includes several disks and polishing compound; you supply the cordless drill. Follow any instructions that come with the kit you buy. Here's how it's done...

Headlight lens before sanding

Headlight lens restoration cannot repair damage to the inside of the lens, so inspect the headlight first. Raise the hood, and clean both lenses with a wet towel. Look for any defects inside the plastic. The procedure shown here will only remove hazing and yellowing on the outside of the lens.

Mask around headlight lens

Cover the area around the headlight using two layers of masking tape. If the tape won't stick well, clean and dry the area first. This will protect the car from scratches while you work.

After course sanding

Sand the headlight lens using the course pad from the restoration kit. The restoration system shown here starts with a 500-grit disk. For best results: - Hold the pad at a slight angle for better control - Only gentle pressure is needed - Keep the sanding pad moving, or the plastic lens may melt - Look for fine plastic dust being removed as you go - Clean or change the pad if it clogs with dust. A damp paper towel will rub off most accumulated powder - Sand tight spots by hand with the pad wrapped around a finger Clean the headlight to check your progress. The lens should look frosted over its entire surface, and all defects and yellowing should be gone. If not, continue sanding.

After medium sanding

Change to a medium pad (800 grit shown here) and repeat sanding the lens to remove the course scratches left from the previous disk. This step will take a little longer due to the finer grit paper. Clean the lens often to find spots you might have missed. Try to get the entire lens to look milky or cloudy.

After finest grit disk

Switch to the finest grit pad in the restoration kit. This kit uses a gray foam disk that must be wetted before use. Sand with this to remove any medium grit scratches. The headlight lens should start to look much clearer and less cloudy. Continue sanding, making sure to cover the entire lens.

Begin final polishing

After all course scratches have been removed, change to the final foam polishing pad. Apply a small amount of polishing compound onto the pad, and smear it over the lens before starting the motor, to reduce splashing. Polish the headlight until all cloudiness is removed. Results here depend on how well you did the previous sanding.

Headlights after polishing

Wipe the lens clean, and check for scratches. If any are left, repeat final sanding and polishing steps. Remove the masking tape, and wash the headlights and the front of the car. Enjoy your like-new headlights!


  • check The wet sanding step can get messy, so wear old clothes.
  • check This took me about three hours to do two headlights. Your mileage may vary.


  • close This project involves alot of bending and leaning. If you have back problems, be careful!

Items you will need

About the Author

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Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Photo by Landsharkphx